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Ohio State semester conversion costs university $11.8M

The semester conversion will cost Ohio State almost $11.8 million, a price tag more than $500,000 greater than original top-end estimates predicted by university officials.
In January, The Lantern reported that the cost of the conversion would be $12.6 million, but since then that figure has dropped. Jay Johnson, assistant provost at the Office of Academic Affairs, said there was information technology that cost less than expected.
“They had budgeted more for contracted labor, so bringing in consultants, bringing in people who can change code, and they had budgeted more than they actually needed,” Johnson said.
Johnson said codes and software throughout the university needed to be updated, including course codes, accounting and payroll information, making up the majority of the conversion cost at more than $10 million.
Johnson said the about $800,000 decrease in the previously reported $12.6 million cost came out of the realization that full-time employees were making more progress than expected, and there was no need to hire as many contracted workers as university officials had anticipated.
Eighty-six percent of the almost $11.8 million total conversion cost was allocated for the Office of the Chief Information Officer and systems changes, 8 percent for advising and 6 percent for administration.
Undergraduate Student Government President Taylor Stepp said the cost seemed high, but the change would be worth the cost.
“It’s upsetting whenever we have to spend a lot of money to keep up in the times, but when the Board of Regents suggested this change to us, it was seen as something that would not just keep us in step with many other institutions, but really move forward,” he said.
In January, Steven Fink, co-chair of the Semester Conversion Coordinating Committee told The Lantern the university was not concerned with the one-time cost of the switch, and instead was looking at how it would benefit students in the long run.
“If we were looking at this financially, we would not be doing the conversion,” Fink said. “We had to be competitive with other schools and convenience students.”
In May 2009, a total cost range of $8.7 to $11.2 million was established after conversations with officials from the University of Minnesota, the last Big Ten school to transfer to the semester system, and a school comparable in size to OSU.
Johnson said Minnesota officials shared details of their semester conversion, and said their largest expense was information technology, and to allocate more money for advising because students would have more questions making demand for advising services higher.
“We put $1 million toward advising as a one-time increase for this project,” Johnson said.
Colleges were asked to put together a plan on how they would spend advising money. The College of Arts and Sciences was given its largest number of students.
Johnson reiterated the words that have been said by several university officials over the past few years, that the conversion is not being funded by students’ tuition.
“The costs were paid for using centrally allocated funds, investment income and earnings overhead,” he said. “That money has been pulled from other sources, it doesn’t come from tuition revenue or form instructional money from the state.”
Johnson said the cost has yet to be finalized and will continue to evolve.


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